No, I mean it, I am always hungry. And the unimaginably cruel truth is that when I was a child I never really cared that much about food. When I think of all the cheeseburgers, fried chicken, ice cream and French fries I consumed as a child and with never a thought of calorie intake or fat content or cholesterol consequences. Free to eat myself into a junk food coma if I so desired. How wonderful to be blithely unaware that the gravy train would some day come to a screeching halt and I would one sad day be looking at a rice cake as my tragic evening snack! While I have no background in psychology, I am acutely aware that my bottomless pit is reflective of all manner of hungers. I believe we are all hungry: hungry for healing, for understanding, for encouragement and for companionship. Mostly, I think we are hungry for God.
We tell ourselves that we hunger for more money more security, more affection, more food, but in actuality what we are craving is that presence of the Divine. We are famished for belief that our life has significance and that a supernatural encounter with wisdom, beauty and fulfillment is possible. It does not take a remarkable amount of materialism or self-indulgence to acknowledge the unfulfilling nature of these goals. The Catholic tradition that I work and minister within will be proclaiming the story of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes this Sunday. Many of the significant biblical stories involve food and Jesus’ concern that those around him be fed. At the end of his ministry when describing himself he does not use a financial or military metaphor – he says, “I am bread, I am wine.” “I am food and I am drink.” And just as we need nourishment and hydration to stay alive, so too, we need the Holy.
This journal entry was inspired by an editorial I read in the New York Times on Wednesday by T. M. Luhrmann where she explores the distinction between “belief” and church attendance. Luhrmann writes, “God is good. The world is good. Things will be good, even if they don’t seem good now. That’s what draws people to church . It is understandably hard for secular observers to sidestep the problem of belief. But it is worth appreciating that in belief is the reach for joy, and the reason many people go to church in the first place.” I agree that we go to church in spite of the multiplicity of our beliefs but also that in church: in the communal silences, in the recitation of ancient prayers, in the congregational singing we finally experience fullness, completion, answers and questions and finally…….. .an occasional breathtaking encounter with our loving and forgiving God. What are you hungry for when you go to church? What happens there that satisfies you? Tell me.